Juha Saarinen

Juha Saarinen is a tech blogger for nzherald.co.nz.

Review: LG LM9600 Cinema Screen Smart TV

5 comments
Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

When it comes to high-definition TVs, most people love the idea of a large screen - and baulk at how much space they take.

It's difficult to hide the size of a screen measuring 55 inches or 140 centimetres diagonally, but with the LM9600 Cinema Screen 3D, South Korean electronics maker LG has produced a set that looks great without dominating the space it in.

The secret is slimness: the LM9600 is a mere 38.4mm thick and has a very slim bezel, or the edge around the screen. No disturbing blinking lights, buttons, logos or connectors mar the lines of the set making for simple and pleasing aesthetics.

Turned on and by the wall, the LM9600 is like having a window to another world put in and it makes other TVs with thicker edges seem inelegant and dated instantly.
LG continued the thin and slim design motif with the stand which looks nice and swivels, but isn't quite as steady as I'd like to support a 20.6kg set.

It is possible to wall-mount the LM9600, and if you can do so, it could work spectacularly well. LG has pointed the connectors behind the set downwards and sideways so you can get the set close to the wall, although the rear-facing control buttons may be hard to reach.

Speaking of connectors, the LM9600 has more than enough: four HDMI 1.4a for Blu-Ray and home theatre audio systems for instance (audio return channel is supported) as well as the usual antenna, optical digital audio, and even an old-fashioned VGA plug for PCs.

Three USB ports are supplied for external storage; they're only version 2.0, so not as fast as 3.0 ones, unfortunately. You can attach external hard drives and play back video, audio and still pictures, and also use them as digital video records. To do that though, the drive has to be formatted and can't be used elsewhere, thanks to those wonderful copyright digital rights management requirements that dictate what we can watch and where.

Networking in TVs is a must these days, and the LM9600 has both wired and wireless connectivity built-in. As the wireless supports both the normal 2.4GHz and the much faster 5GHz bands, I went for the latter and didn't need to hook up a long Ethernet cable to the set and still had very good performance with Internet TV over my 70Mbps VDSL2 connection.

You get two types of remote controls with the LM9600: one normal one that sports the usual cryptic and difficult to learn plethora of buttons that should be illuminated in the dark but which aren't; and, the Magic Remote which looks like a games controller and acts like a computer mouse with a pointer on the screen and a scroll wheel.

Pointing the Magic Remote at the screen feels strange at first but it soon becomes second nature and the preferred way to navigate the features of the TV.

Finally, the user interface on the LM9600 is mostly logical and easy to work with. This is important as the TV has a boat load of features, including two professional calibration modes for the image, and much more.

Luckily, setting up the LM9600 isn't that hard and it comes with good online help features built-in and picture wizards to get you going. It's definitely worth getting the screen professionally calibrated though, for best results.

Image quality

LG's expertise in screen making shows: the LM9600 provides amazing image quality, especially with Blu-Ray movies. The screen features "Nano LED" backlighting allowing for "local dimming" or turning the light down or off in different areas of the screen.

Thanks to the Nano LED technology, black look inky and nice across the screen - it may seem odd that image quality is determined by how dark it can go, but that's how it works and the LM9600 does it very well indeed.

After calibrating the set which arrives with eyeball-searing brightness in shop condition, and testing the different features such as 400Hz TruMotion refresh rate, Cinema Mode, noise reduction and more, it's fair to say the LM9600 is a superb screen.

Colours are excellent and the picture sharp with no noticeable banding or blur due to lag, making some movies look almost as if you were at a stage play. Action movies looked great too.

LED and LCD TVs normally have an Achilles heel and that's the viewing angle: you pretty much have to sit right in front of the set or the image looks dull and starts to blur. Not so with the LM9600, which can be viewed sideways (so to speak) without loss of quality.
Lower resolution DVDs look pretty good too, upscaled to 1080p high definition on the LM9600. However, even the LM9600 doesn't handle some bad quality standard definition content via Freeview and the Internet, so HD material at 720p minimum is what you should feed this set.

The one fly in the ointment here is the reflective screen: it's definitely bright enough to be used in a living room in daylight, but you seriously need to keep the space where you put the LM9600 dark, or the reflections in the screen will annoy.

Sound

Normally I don't bother rating the sound on flat screens beyond noting whether or not there are speakers on the set.

The LM9600 deserves a small mention here though, as it has two stereo speakers firing rearwards and also a sub-woofer. These are all ten watts output each, and produce pretty clear and reasonably loud sound.

In three dimensions

LG decided to forego the active shutter technology in favour of passive 3D. This means LG's glasses - four pairs are supplied with the set - are lightweight and not the usual huge and chunky specs used for active sets.

I still struggle to appreciate 3D, partly because of the lack of good content for it and partly because of the glasses which invariably reduce contrast and viewing angles, change colours and become tiring to wear after 45 minutes of watching.

That said LG's take on 3D is good as long as you don't move around and face straight at the screen. I found myself spellbound by an Internet TV documentary on Argentinian fire ants, which appeared disgustingly lifelike on the LM9600 and the by now hoary old Avatar movie was quite watchable.

The 2D to 3D conversion feature is best left alone as it adds nothing but a weird image, but gamers should like the Dual Play mode. This lets two players see their own 2D screen, and there are two pairs of glasses bundled with the set.

Smart features

Wow, LG is going big on Internet TV and other networked features. The company even has an app store and the set comes bundled with several free and pay-for options through the Smart World portal.
With a dual-core processor on board, the LM9600 can be used to browse the Internet too, and it has a search feature.

As long as you can point and click to select the Internet TV channels, the experience is fine. Fast broadband is a must for streaming high-definition content but even with my VDSL2 connection, some programmes would stall at times.

Just as with 3D, I wonder how many people will use the Internet features on the LM9600 though. Logging on to the various services with usernames and passwords via the remote and onscreen keyboard is hideously awkward and not something you want to often.

Likewise, who would use social media like Twitter and Facebook from the TV and with a remote? Emailing? You can plug in a keyboard, but it's much easier to use a smartphone or tablet instead.

LG and other TV makers have a vested interest in making Internet features easy to use so that people don't stop buying sets and watch programmes on their computers, smartphones and tablets instead. To make that happen though, Internet TV needs to be as easy to use as normal programming and without a special portal and menus.
More useful than the Internet stuff are the local networking features such as DLNA media sharing that works well and the ability to connect a laptop directly and wirelessly to the LM9600 with WiDi.

There's also a 2nd Display feature that lets you watch TV and Blu-Rays on your smartphone or tablet, as long as you're within Wi-Fi range of the TV, and this is very cool.

Final words

Prices for high definition TVs have come down and you get much more for your money than in the past. A set like the LM9600 would easily have cost $1,500 to $2,000 not long ago, but even so, the $5,500 retail price puts it out of most people's budgets.

I wish LG would make a set that has the excellent 2D quality of the LM9600, and pare down the pricing by not bundling 3D and Internet features.

However, if you love watching high-definition movies (and who doesn't?) and are willing to stump up the money, the LG LM9600 should be on your list of TVs to check out.

Great stuff
• Excellent image quality overall
• Easy to set up and use
• Simple, slim and elegant design
• Magic Remote works well
• Huge range of features

So and so
• 3D still gimmicky
• Some Internet features need a keyboard
• Remote control buttons not illuminated

Oh dear
• Screen reflections can be a nuisance

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